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Debian-Ubuntu relationship: bits from UDS

On Sun, May 16, 2010 at 12:45:54PM +0200, Stefano Zacchiroli wrote:
> So, I'm now back and with some feedback to share. I'll first post (in
> this mail) a summary of the replies I got to this "poll" and later on a
> more general summary of what I did at UDS.

Here we go.
I had mainly 3 reasons to attend UDS:

1) present in the invited talk the Debian feelings about the current
   state of the Debian-Ubuntu relationship (i.e. the poll outcome)
2) attend the UDS "session" (the equivalent of our "BoF" at DebConf)
   about the "health check" of the Ubuntu-Debian relationship from the
   PoV of Ubuntu, and give my input there
3) advance some specific requests to the Canonical management, in
   accordance to the poll outcome.

Let's see them one by one.


The slides are at <http://upsilon.cc/~zack/stuff/debian-uds-m.pdf>. The
talk was a plenary one, not in parallel with other sessions, but it was
a short one. I believe there should be a video available (for full
disclosure on what I said there), but I've no idea where :), maybe some
dual Ubuntu/Debian dev on this list can post a link ...

My goals with the talk were to explain:

- the relationship of Debian and Ubuntu (technical and historical)
- why I think it's in the mutual interest of both distros to (at least
  try to) collaborate
- what is the current state of the collaboration (i.e. a representative
  sampling of the "success stories" I got from the poll)
- what does not work in the collaboration (i.e. the "fail" of the poll)

Note that (as scottk and lucas made me realize, thanks!), the audience
of UDS is not made entirely of geeks or free software zealots, there are
also employees which do not necessarily share our values, so---in the
talk---I explained reason for collaboration also according to pragmatism
and ease of work flow, rather than only as: "it is the right thing to do
for free software" (but the argument is there too).


I had some very good returns from attendees. To my surprise, I realized
that among Ubuntu developers there are quite some people which share our
values and that acknowledge that Ubuntu sometimes fails at them. Those
people are interested in working with Debian directly, but simply didn't
realize that we do welcome their contributions (the culture of "work in
Debian 1st"), that they can join our teams, or that things like DM to
maintain their packages exist in the first place.

That alone, makes me happy about having attended: Ubuntu currently
reaches out a pool of people that includes some of the DDs of the future
(as recent experience shows), the sooner we let them know us and our
values, the better.

Debian-Ubuntu relationship session

The session was attended by a mixed public including, most notably: the
Ubuntu community manager (Jono Bacon) and the responsible of
relationship with upstream (Jorge Castro), several DDs (myself, vorlon,
scottk, jelmer, lucas, ... and I'm surely forgetting others), and
several Ubuntu devs working in mixed Debian/Ubuntu teams.

In the session, I've argued that:

- We generally welcome forwarding of bugs to the Debian BTS *after
  suitable triaging*: that is the key of a sane upstream/downstream
  relationship that we are supposed to implement with Debian upstreams
  and that we should expect from our downstream.

- We welcome packaging of new software (which are not Ubuntu-specific)
  directly in Debian, that will then flow in Ubuntu via sync. Some
  people advanced complains of "bad timing" to upload to Debian
  (e.g. when Debian is in freeze) and we observed that that is no
  excuse, as they can still upload to experimental.

- We welcome discussion of "big" changes in Debian first. That would
  reduce the incidence of situations in which we feel people with double
  hats favor Ubuntu over Debian. Also it will give a discussion venue
  that we can trust more for the soundness of technical decisions (even
  because it's larger).

Then we discussed various technical issues that can enable, opt-in, DDs
which are interested in following their packages in Ubuntu to actually
do that. From that we obtained a nice TODO list for Launchpad that has
been submitted to Jorge Castro.

Derivatives front desk: call for volunteers

The main request I got back during that session is to have a Debian
contact point for Ubuntu people willing to help out.

More generally, I think it makes sense to have a contact point for
derivatives which have packaging work to offer to Debian and which need
directions. So, I'm looking for volunteers willing to listen to such a
contact point and to drive requests to the most appropriate team,
process, procedure, etc. Of course, if there will be no volunteer, we
will simply not set it up.  People in Debian coming from Ubuntu would be
a good start, but more generally Debian people coming from whatever
derivative distributions will be perfect candidates for the job.

If you're interested in helping out with this, please contact


Finally, I met with various people of Canonical management (Mark
Shuttleworth, Jono Bacon, Jorge Castro, and Matt Zimmerman---at
different times) to advance a couple of requests.

From a community point of view, I've asked to be more clear on the
relationship of Debian and Ubuntu: we need to have Ubuntu people know
that we exist in the first place and what we prefer in the interaction
with us. I also asked to have more (assuming there is any now) "peer
pressure" in the Ubuntu community to push changes back to Debian.

Then, I explained our feelings that not enough credit is given to
Debian, and asked that Debian have a more prominent role in the Ubuntu
web presence.

I plan to assess in the next months what happened to the above requests.


PS I'll cross-reference this post and the former from the next "Bits
   from the DPL". That way it's not (too) annoying for people that don't
   care about Ubuntu, but it will still have a good chance to be noticed
   by people which do.

Stefano Zacchiroli -o- PhD in Computer Science \ PostDoc @ Univ. Paris 7
zack@{upsilon.cc,pps.jussieu.fr,debian.org} -<>- http://upsilon.cc/zack/
Dietro un grande uomo c'è ..|  .  |. Et ne m'en veux pas si je te tutoie
sempre uno zaino ...........| ..: |.... Je dis tu à tous ceux que j'aime

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